Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Great Fire” as Want to Read:
The Great Fire
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Great Fire

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  1,254 ratings  ·  160 reviews
Jim Murphy's Newbery Honor Book available for the first time in paperback.

"Vivid firsthand descriptions by persons who lived through the 1871 Chicago fire are woven into a gripping account... Absorbing and riveting reading." The Horn Book, starred review
Paperback, 144 pages
Published October 1st 2006 by Scholastic Paperbacks (first published 1995)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Great Fire, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Great Fire

George's Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy HawkingThe Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankIf You Lived Here by Giles LarocheBalloons Over Broadway by Melissa SweetSnowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Best Children's Nonfiction
8th out of 212 books — 58 voters
Charlotte's Web by E.B. WhiteElla Enchanted by Gail Carson LevineBecause of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamilloHatchet by Gary PaulsenPrincess Academy by Shannon Hale
Newbery Medal Honor Books
132nd out of 312 books — 285 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,322)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Errin Tucker
This book is nonfiction and is written for more Advanced reader. This book is a Newberry Honor Book, Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Honor Book and NCTE Orbis Pictus Award winner for Outstanding Nonfiction.

This story was written for more advanced readers such as 5th grade and above. This story is about the major Chicago fire in 1871 that changed the lives of people forever.

I rated this story with 5 stars. There were some pictures that were hand drawn and some photographs. The story was told in
S. J.
May 14, 2013 S. J. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone (children within the recommended age limts however)
Recommended to S. by: The Author (courtesy of another book)
*5 Stars*

Before reading another of his Children's history books, I had written off non-fiction history books labeled for Children or YA because...they JUST WEREN'T GOOD! They wrote down to their readers, as if people without at least a college education couldn't hope to comprehend anything "history". I learned history on my dad's knee and he never talked down to me. So I skipped YA and children's and when straight to reading adult books. Some were extremely difficult to get through and I never g
This is a very different version of the story of the Chicago Fire than I have ever heard before. It uses real accounts from various people, photos, maps, and artifacts to tell the story of the errors, mistakes, and confusion that made the Chicago Fire the infamous disaster it became. Listening to this book had both its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage was the way it was read. Listening to the various accounts of actual people who were involved in the Chicago Fire read with such energy ...more
Kelly O'toole
This is a non-fiction, award winning account of the Great Chicago Fire. Being a Chicagoan and a history undergraduate major, I found this topic most interesting. Most people are aware of the legend that the fire was started when Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a bucket, but Murphy unravels the history of this fire and reasons behind it. Interesting one can attribute this breadth of this tragedy to class discrimination, as the fire started in a working class neighborhood, thereby perhaps not getti ...more
I still remember when I read "Blizzard" by Jim Murphy. It was August and I was working on a siding job in the blistering sun in the hot hot heat. Haha, very interesting timing to read a book about people freezing to death and 20 feet of snow etc...

Now I'm in Mongolia. How appropriate if I could say it was one of those great -30 degree days.. However, it is March, and it was lovely Spring weather. Oh well. Bad timing.

Anyway, who knew that it WASN'T Mrs. O'Leary's cow that started the great Chicag
Awards Won: Newbery Honor (1996)

As someone who is not a native Chicagoan, I found this book very fascinating and educational. The photographs that accompanied the narrative provided a great mental image of the destruction that Chicago faced that tragic night.

I think that this would be a great book to use when third graders learn about Chicago. The book is definitely appropriate for older readers, but could be used for a whole group read-aloud to engage the students. Other content areas could al
Caelyn Pietila
The Great Fire written by Jim Murphy is a non-fiction story about a famous in fire in the city of Chicago that was so detrimental, nobody knew if the city could ever be built back up to what it was. This book is a chapter book that is meant for older students. I would suggest this book to fifth or sixth graders. The true meaning behind this book is the relationship between people and the community. Even though the community of Chicago was going through hard times, the people in the city all work ...more
Sherry Thornberry
This was a rather tedious read for me. I cannot say I enjoyed it per say. It was very informational and did give me a lot of facts that I didn't know about the great Chicago fire. I did find it interesting how the severity of the damage and destruction can be directly linked to a series of mistakes and unfortunate events. I also found it interesting how when the fire was finally out, the people of Chicago were not free from worry. Their water pumping station had been burnt and many residents had ...more
The Great Fire, Written by Jim Murphy, 1995, Nonfiction

The Great Fire is a nonfiction book about the Great Fire of 1871 that ravaged the city of Chicago. The text combines first hand accounts with facts and the known historical timeline to tell this event as if it were a story. Drawings, maps, and photographs are spread throughout the book with informative captions and source information. This book could be used to explain the difference between primary and secondary sources. This book would be
Stacey Cross
'The Great Fire' is an entertaining read of the events that occurred during the Chicago Fire, but written in narrative format. The content within the book is very informative and the pictures provide real life accounts of this particular time period in history. The most amazing part of this book is how the author uses maps to show how quickly the fire spread and the direction in which it took. The author did an amazing job describing the toll this terrible fire took on the city and its inhabitan ...more
Neccia Sirrine
The great fire is a book about a fire that burned a lot of the town of Chicago in 1871. The citizens of Chicago were determined to make their city a better place than it was before and it tells their story. The pictures in this book didn’t really catch my eye. I noticed at the end that I didn’t pay attention to very many of them. The maps that were drawn were sometimes annoying to have to look back a few chapters to find which place they were talking about. The font is two different colors from ...more
This book is good for people who are interested in history, or how it happened. It was a good book but, I'm not really into history books. It jumps around a lot, so I found it really hard to know from who's point of view it was coming from.
Jan C
This book was knocked down in rating for the acceptance of Peg Leg Sullivan's testimony. Maybe I missed it. But I didn't hear anything definitive about the start of the fire. Now, this book may have been published before the exoneration of Mrs. O'Leary and her cow. It has been determined that Peg Leg was peeved at being cut off by O'Leary and somehow, whether on purpose or dozing off in the barn, knocked over the lantern. The City Council has absolved her of all blame.

The rest of the book was p
Loved listening to this book. This account is fascinating. Well written and well researched. Loving Historical Fiction is a plus when reading this. Jim Murphy did a great job in identifying conflicts in the reporting of what happened. Although it read very much like a novel, there was plenty references to what is documented about this fire separating the facts from rumor. It is a great book for young readers to think about what they might do if they were in that same situation. It is great tool ...more
Although my children & I learned about the Chicago fire from this book, we all found it to be, for the most part, very dry & boring. How many different ways can you say that a fire spread?
Lilly C.
Jim Murphy's style makes non-fiction seem like fiction. I learned a lot about the Great Fire. I am super glad our school chose this book for us to read. Right now, I am reading another book by Jim Murphy, An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793.
Jim Murphy writes very detailed books. The story of survivors and actual people there enhance this book and take it to a whole nother level. This is a for certain must-read, for any age.
Don Weidinger
Sunday 10.8.71 5cows O’Leary hay coal shack, elevated wood walkways over soggy marshland, Saturday night fire half of 185 firefighters at also average 6/day, wrong fire alarms and poor operation, America first pumper Little Giant second, 38mph winds, fire break dynamite homes every 5 minutes, disordered in poor and rich alike, Tribune best though tar over wood roof and water supply lost pumps, miracle rain prevented spreading south, 1mile by 4mile area 17,500 buildings 300 dead, newspaper false ...more
Ann Goddard
This history of Chicago's great fire if 1871 is fairly short, to the point, and draws largely from first person accounts and later testimony from the official inquiry. It is intended for youthful audiences, but is enjoyable by any age. Having lived on the South Side of Chicago, I had wondered at the great use of brick in structures of the early 1900s; now I understand that city building codes, responding to the conflagration resulting from largely wooden city structures, tended to require the us ...more
I loved this book, and the first hand accounts that went along with it of the Great Chicago Fire. I have heard so many versions of what happened, that it was eye-opening to read the actual events of that day. The maps of the devastation are jaw dropping, just to see how large of an area was destroyed. The photographs that go along with the story help to put a human face to the gravity of the situation. If I am in an older classroom, I would love to have this book as a mentor text. It could be us ...more
Readers can count on Jim Murphy for meticulous research presented in an engaging manner. As a lifelong Chicago resident, I already knew a lot about the Chicago Fire, but this book taught me much that I didn't know. For example, although I knew that Mrs. O'Leary was not actually milking her cow when the fire started in her barn, I did not know that she was, in reality, a young, successful, working class woman in her 30s -- not the old haggard, poverty-stricken, pioneer woman depicted in legend. I ...more
The Great fire is nonfiction book by Jim Murphy. This is a Newberry Honor Book as well as the Boston Globe-Horn Book. The book has won awards such as NCTE Orbis Pictus and Sibert as well because of its exceptional nonfiction. I would suggest advanced readers of 6th grade and above to read this book and I would rate it 4 stars, because I feel it will appeal to some not all young readers.
The book is all about the main Chicago fire in the year 1871 where people’s lives were totally changed, since i
Jennifer Tarr
This was a solid, relatively quick-to-read documentary of the fire that destroyed Chicago. Murphy's data was facts based on personal accounts of several people—the O’Learys (whose cow, some claim, started the fire), a former alderman, a reporter for the Chicago Evening Post, the Chicago Tribune editor, men and a young girl. His facts were also based on pictures, diagrams and related data (such as notations of what fire alarms had been sounded and when). He organized them in the order of when the ...more

Review: The great fire
Editorial Review - Kirkus Reviews
A veritable cinematic account of the catastrophe that decimated much of Chicago in 1871, forcing more than 100,000 people from their homes. Murphy (Night Terrors, 1993) tells the story through the eyes of several survivors. He focuses on real-life people such as the O'Learys, in whose barn the fire began; James Hildreth, a politician who thought the best way to stop the fire was to blow up houses in its path and create a ""fire b
Karen Michele
When I taught elementary music, I used to teach a camp song that the kids loved. The words were:

One dark night when the world was all in bed, old lady O'Leary took a lantern to the shed and when the cow kicked it over she blinked her eyes and said, "it'll be a hot time in the old town tonight!

Little did I know that the song was a part of the ridicule and misinformation put out about the "Great Fire" as the Chicago fire of 1871 has come to be known. Jim Murphy got a well deserved Newbery Honor fo
The Great Fire
by Jim Murphy
144 pages

A story on the Great Chicago Fire that left the town in ruins, it follows a few people and their accounts on the fire. It begins by stating that from the beginning, there were many factors stacked against them when the fire started. From the beginning, Chicago was highly flammable; almost all the buildings were made of wood, the roofs made of tar or shingles; the lots small and almost entirely filled with wooded outhouses, sheds, or barns; and walkwa
Stephanie Gulliver
Summary: A Newbery Honor book, The Great Fire shows from beginning to end of how the Chicago fire took place. Starting at a barn on the West side and spreading throughout the city, this book shows the mistakes made during this tragic event. With maps and pictures, this book goes into every detail of what exactly took place. The personal stories in this book are what make it so real. This book will put you in the place of all these people. You can see what it was like to feel the hurt, fear, and ...more
Originally reviewed on my blog, Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing along with another of Murphy's Newbery Honor titles, An American Plague.

I believe Jim Murphy to be a pretty much perfect writer of non-fiction for children. His writing is very easy to follow, easy to understand but it isn't basic. He doesn't dumb the history down, or assume that his readers are going to be stupid. And, something I believe to be very important when writing history for young kids- he tells the history like a st
Nora Alomari
Grade Level Interest: 3rd-5th grade
Lexile Level: 1130L
Genre: Information Book

Main Characters: None
Setting: Chicago
POV: none

This is an informational text that is appealing to young children that talks about The Great Fire that occurred in Chicago in 1871. The book talks about this historical event, how it all stated, and how it would it shape Chicago into the city it is today. It explains that how back in those days controlling fires was difficult and especially in city that was made out of wood
Erin Ramai
The Great Fire by Jim Murphy is appropriate for children in grades 5-9. It received a Newbery Honor Award in 1996. I listened to the Playaway audio version of this text.

The true story of the Chicago Fire of 1871 is a series of mistakes, almost to the point of being a comedy of errors. However, the destruction and the devastation were very real. The city was made almost entirely of wood and because there had been a drought and a fierce wind blowing, the fire was nearly impossible to contain. Peop
I think I will like this book. Taylor Mali (What do I Make? I Make a Difference!) narrates.

Unfortunately, my pre-order of Written in My Own Heart's Blood came out today and I want to go after that. I will try to finish this first.

Taylor did a great job of narrating. He slipped in and out of character very smoothly. I had never heard too much about the Chicago fire so it was very interesting to me. I like the way the author used diaries, letters and other personal accounts to tell the story.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 77 78 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane
  • Volcano: The Eruption and Healing of Mount St. Helens
  • Sugaring Time
  • Like Jake and Me
  • Carver: A Life in Poems
  • Journey Outside
  • Graven Images
  • The Avion My Uncle Flew
  • Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night
  • When Shlemiel Went to Warsaw and Other Stories
  • Hurry Home, Candy
  • What Hearts
  • The Noonday Friends
  • Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun
  • Yolonda's Genius
  • In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World
  • A Fine White Dust
  • Tree of Freedom
an American author of more than 35 nonfiction and fiction books for children, young adults, and general audiences, including more than 30 about American history. He won the Margaret Edwards Award from the American Library Association in 2010 for his contribution in writing for teens. Jim lives in Maplewood, New Jersey, in a hundred-year-old house with his wife Alison Blank, a children’s TV produce ...more
More about Jim Murphy...
An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 West to a Land of Plenty: The Diary of Teresa Angelino Viscardi My Face to the Wind: The Diary of Sarah Jane Price, a Prairie Teacher (Dear America) Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting Blizzard: The Storm that Changed America

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“The fire was barely fifteen minutes old. What followed was a series of fatal errors that set the fire free and doomed the city to a fiery death.” 1 likes
“...a single tongue of flame shooting out the side of the O'Learys' barn.
(Where the fire started)”
More quotes…